Top Chef is a reality show on Bravo where chefs compete for cash and prizes in the tradition of Project Runway, with which they share producers. The second season of Top Chef kicked off this season and the most recent episode offers a stark and simple business lesson: If you offer consumers what you want rather than what they want, you will fail.
The contestant who last week heard the words: "please pack your knives and go" was Emily Sprissler. And it wasn't her rather dubious belief that her self-professed "foul-mouthed and ill-tempered" persona would propel her to victory that did her in. Rather it was her arrogant view that she knew better than consumers what they should want to eat.
In the first "quickfire" challenge, the chefs had to quickly whip up an ice cream which would be judged by people enjoying a day at the beach. Emily was horrified to arrive and find that there were a bunch of "snot-nosed" kids awaiting her ice cream and she proclaimed: "I hate kids!" One woman who dared to wrinkle her nose at Emily's ice cream was declared by Emily to not be worthy of her ice cream because the woman had a "huge ass." Not surprisingly, Emily received among the fewest votes from the crowd.
The second "elimination" challenge involved interpreting a childhood favorite and creating a dish for T.G.I.Fridays casual dining restaurant which would be judged by firefighters. Emily upon learning of the challenge complained that she is only interested in fine dining cuisine and expressed unwillingness to make any effort to genuinely respond to the challenge. When the chefs went shopping for her dish she kind of glumly threw her hands in the air and said something along the lines of, I guess I'll make surf and turf because they (presumably the unsophisticated boobs who eat at Fridays) like that kind of thing. In addition to her obvious disgust for the whole challenge, I have to wonder... whose childhood favorite dish is surf and turf?
Needless to say, Emily was eliminated. Betty Fraser, who won this challenge and the previous episode's, won both challenges, in part, because of her obvious enthusiasm for delighting the people who ate her food, whoever they were. Lee Anne Wong from season one has a blog where she analyzes each episode and she faults Emily for not "playing up to" and "underestimating" her consumers. However, those qualities are for show. I'd argue that her downfall was the result of being completely uninterested in understanding what would please her consumers. If you aren't in the business of delighting the people who buy your product, use your service or eat your food and instead are concerned with delighting only yourself and indulging your tastes and interests then ultimately you will end up with one customer: yourself.
Tags: Top Chef
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